Pending cases in the Indian courts

Published: 16th September 2009
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The number of pending cases in the Indian courts has crosses the 30 million mark. With continuous adjournments and delayed decisions, justice in the country has come to a stand still. The situation has become acute to the extent that none other than the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, called it a "scourge". Probably this is the strongest term which has been used so far for this problem.

It should be remembered that in the absence of an efficient judiciary, it is impossible to build a functioning democracy. Judicial delays create cynicism among citizens about the efficacy of our institutions in dispensing justice in a free and fair manner. Besides, it is a deterrent for investors who need sanctity of contract above everything. India can't afford that. It's time the country paid adequate attention to this issue.

PM Manmohan Singh on August 17, 2009 in the conference of the Chief Ministers and the chief justices of India termed for the first time in judicial history the more than 30 million backlog of cases in courts as a "scourge" and promised that the government would take two steps for each step taken by the judiciary in the war to eliminate this scourge.

The PM said that "to wipe off every tear of litigants" should be the goal of everyone. He said, "India has to suffer the scourge of the world's largest backlog of cases and timelines which generate surprise globally and concern at home"

Asking the SC to be a role model as well as mentor, catalyst and organizer in this war against the scourge of pendency, Singh said, "The government will not be found wanting at any level in this joint effort. We promise to match each step of judiciary with two of our own."

One of the reasons of the creation the huge backlog of the cases is that India is facing alarming shortage of judges. According to the Supreme Court of India, more than 1,500 high court and 23,000 subordinate court judges are needed to clear the backlog of civil and criminal cases. There are about 280 vacant posts in the high courts alone. The enormity of the task calls for urgent action.

It seems that the murderers are able to execute their sinister plans faster than the courts can punish them at the end of the trial. The Chief Justice of India, Mr K G Balakrishnan, conceded in the conference that the Sessions Courts trying murder cases were increasingly finding it difficult to dispose them at a pace with which the crime was taking place in the country. He said, " Every year around 380 murders take place in Delhi. But the Sessions Courts are equipped to dispose of only 250 murder cases every year. This means a backlog of 130 cases is added to the pendency level despite trial court judges working their hearts out." It should be added here that around 500 thousand murder cases form part of the 19.4 million criminal cases pending in various courts.

The Uttar Pradesh tops the list of the pending cases and accounts for 6.1 million pending cases that is 20% of the cases pending in high courts and trial courts across the states. The. Allahabad high court of UP, the largest high court in the country, with a sanctioned strength of 160 judges, faces a piquant situation. Nearly 45% of judges posts, that is 72, are vacant even though the high court accounts for 9,35,425 pending cases out of an all India total of 39,55,224 pending in all HCs.

Latest statistics released by the Supreme Court says that the state has sanctioned 2,181 judicial officers' posts for the trial courts but 538 posts are lying vacant. About 5.236 million cases are pending in these courts. About 26.7 million civil and criminal cases pending in the subordinate judiciary. On June 30, 2009 more than 30 million cases were pending in courts of the country. 27.1 million cases are pending in the subordinate courts while more than 4 million cases are pending in the high courts. 50,659 cases were pending in the Supreme Court.

It should be mentioned that India accounts for the lowest number of judges per million population of the country. India accounts for 10.5 judges for every million persons. Even then all posts of judges are not filled and a large number of them are lying vacant. With 12 judges for a million of population even the situation of Bangladesh is better than India not to mention Australia with 41.6 judges per million population, Hungary with 70 , Canada with 75.2 and the USA with 107 judges per million. The Law Commission of India has proposed that the number of judges in the country should become five times.

We should also not forget that the Government of India is a party in a large number of cases. In more than 80 per cent cases related to Education, government is a party. The question is that why the government needs to fight its citizens at such a large scale.

It has also been observed that many cases are filed just for creating problems for others and are frivolous in nature. The government should see to it that the frivolous cases are discouraged.

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